Category Archives: Birds


I’m falling well behind with blogging. I’m due a fox update and also got a really nice set of horse-racing pictures that I should post (including some nice shots of this year’s champion jockey). But those are being put to one side (yet again) as when I got home late this afternoon a sparrowhawk was on the grass outside our back window devouring some prey (probably a pigeon).

I do occasionally see sparrowhawks come very close to the garden and in 17 years have seen one land on a fence or tree here twice, so being down, in the garden, and with prey was something very unexpected. The shots were taken through the (dirty) double-glazed back door so lack some clarity, but they certainly give an idea of what we spent a good 10 minutes watching. Assuming the prey is a pigeon this is most likely a female.


Sparrowhawk devouring prey in garden

Sparrowhawk with what appears to be a pigeon’s feather

Sparrowhawk with feathers strewn around

We didn’t get to see it finish its feast as it was disturbed by noise from one of the neighbours. But a special few minutes, for certain.

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

Also posted in Bird of Prey, Wildlife Tagged |

Making a Splash

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending a little bit of time at Falmer Pond concentrating on the ducks and the gulls. Very common subjects, but I’ve been interested in playing with the light to see if I could get something slightly more interesting. Most of the following shots were taken with the 500mm lens, which I am slowly getting to grips with. Working with a tripod changes how you think about shots. You can’t go chasing them in the way you can with a smaller lens. So it takes more patience, but it’s a nice way to spend the odd hour or so.

My general set-up is to shoot into the light (or at least across it). This tends to darken backgrounds and highlight any water splashes (which is what I’m after). The camera is set to underexpose (negative compensation of between -1 and -2) which ups the shutter speed and reduces the risk of blowing out highlights.

herring gull

A simple shot, showing a nice arc of spray

herring gull

I like the flash of yellow from the gull’s bill and the geometric shape of the spray.

Duck on calm water

This one was picked for the variation in light.

But ducks can certainly make a good splash as well, as in these.

duck splashing with wings raised

Female mallard. Less spray but I liked the colour and light.

Duck splashing with wings raised

A simialr shot to the previous one, but the light had changed which makes for a very different feel to the image.

The final one is actually a rear view of a duck, a male mallard; but it’s also my favourite. It perhaps could have done with slightly more ‘splash’, but the shape of the spray, the reflection on the water and the strong back-light through the wings more than compensates.

Male mallard, with wings extended

Male mallard, with wings extended

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 500mm f/4 IS II USM lens.

Also posted in water birds, Wildlife

Castle Hill Kestrel and a fox update

We are fortunate to be on the doorstep of the Castle Hill Nature Reserve, which sits on the edge of the South Downs. It’s mainly grass chalkland and in the summer is ablaze with butterflies. It is also home to a number of rare orchids.

Castle Hill view

View across Castle Hill

I visited on Saturday, and had barely gone a few paces before I spotted a kestrel out hunting. That was good enough for me. It was tracking back and forth, hovering and swooping, and occasionally picking up a morsel to eat. I stayed and watched.


Kestrel at Castle Hill


Kestrel at Castle Hill

Typically kestrels will predate small rodents, but if they are not available they have a particular fancy for crickets. You can see one grasped in her talons in this shot taken as she flew away.

kestrel with cricket

Kestrel with cricket

As for the foxes, we are now approaching the time of year where they sort out their winter territory. Mid-September and everything changes. The younger foxes are ‘encouraged’ away from their home patch and forced to become fully independent. There will also be changes in the adult population as they seek out the best territory for breeding. As we move into winter they will also be seeking mates. The first obvious sings are that they change their habits. We are seeing less of the young foxes in the evening, but Pretty (a fully mature adult vixen) has been slightly more evident in the past couple of weeks. Their nightly arrival times are now later, and interestingly they are also becoming more cautious. Apart form a brief glimpse of Long Nose and Pretty in the early hours of Saturday morning, the only other visit this weekend was by Scamp, on Sunday afternoon.

two foxes

Long Nose (foreground) and Pretty Vixen visit in the early hours of Saturday morning

fox in long grass

Scamp relaxing in the garden on Sunday afternoon

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, apart from the shot of Long Nose and Pretty taken with the EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens.

Also posted in Bird of Prey, Foxes, Kestrel, Wildlife Tagged , |